Hughes Aerospace


Chicago’s O’Hare airport recently implemented its first RNP (required navigation performance) instrument approach. The satellite-based precision approach is part of the new generation of GPS approaches popping up at airports around the nation and the world. Chris Baur, president and CEO of Hughes Aerospace, the company that developed the approach, told Examiner on Wednesday that the new approach is an environmentally friendly alternative to current land-based approaches.

Instrument approaches are the procedures used by pilots to locate the landing runway when the weather precludes a visual approach. At large airports like O’Hare (KORD), the typical method of tracking to the runway involves an ILS (instrument landing system) approach. ILS approaches use land-based transmitters to send signals to the pilots that bring the airplanes to the touchdown point on the runway both laterally (with a localizer) and vertically (with a glideslope). This requires two separate transmitter facilities for each runway that utilizes an ILS. This can be cost-prohibitive for small airports.

RNP approaches utilize satellite navigation technology instead of ground-based navigational facilities. The aircraft’s flight management computer is programmed to fly a predetermined course along a series of waypoints, locations on a map that do not have to coincide with any geographic feature, toward the runway. Because the airplane is following GPS waypoints, approaches can easily be planned to avoid terrain features or noise sensitive areas. They can also be developed over water where land-based facilities are impractical. At some airports, RNP approaches even follow a curved path to the runway using RF (radius to fix) segments, such as this approach at Atlanta’s Peachtree-DeKalb airport (KPDK).

The RNP, required navigation performance of the approach, determines the accuracy of the approach and has an effect on the minimums, how low the pilot can go without seeing the runway. The required navigation performance for approaches can be as low as 0.1. This means that an airplane’s navigational system must be accurate to with 0.1 nautical mile radius 95 percent of the time. This is referred to as performance-based navigation (PBN).

Baur says the new approach has several advantages over traditional ILS approaches. The RNP approach uses GPS satellites so there are no “costly ground based Infrastructure, architectural weakness and repetitive flight inspections” that are required of traditional ILS facilities. This can reduce costs for maintaining the approach.

Ground-based facilities are also subject to interference from local weather conditions. Baur notes that snow from the infamous Chicago winters can accumulate on antennas and cause a degradation of the navigation signals just when accuracy is needed most. “In the event of the loss or degradation of the ILS, traffic flows and arrival rates can be maintained” with RNP approaches, Baur says. This can translate into fewer delayed or canceled flights for airline passengers. Baur also points out that, because RNP approaches are designed with the stabilized approach concept in mind, they will likely result in fewer missed approaches or “go-arounds.”

“Collectively this reduces the overall environmental impact to the airport and surrounding community,” Baur says.

There are some disadvantages to RNP approaches as well. RNP approaches require special pilot and aircraft certification. Baur notes that many, but not all, modern airliners are equipped with avionics that are capable of RNP approaches. Manyairlines have already incorporated RNP approaches into their training programs. Many, if not most, private airplanes are not equipped to fly RNP approaches. This means that smaller aircraft flying into smaller, rural airports cannot benefit from RNP approaches where their value could be greatest.

Further, RNP approaches are nearly, but not quite, as accurate as an ILS. An ILS typically has minimums of 200 feet and ½ mile visibility, but can go even lower in some cases. This means that the airplane can descend as low as 200 feet above the ground without making visual contact with the runway. The RNP approach at O’Hare has minimums of 330 feet and ¾ mile visibility. In most cases, the higher minimum will not make a difference, but in a snowstorm or fog, the extra 130 feet might make the difference between landing and going around.

In spite of the drawbacks, Baur feels that RNP and PBN are the future of aviation. “Today most of the major US Airlines and many of the foreign airlines have received authorization for RNP AR [arrival] procedures, as well as many corporate operators,” he says. “I feel RNAV (RNP) as well as RNP AR will continue to grow and provide benefits. The number of participating operators will also increase with improved access through avionics.”

Hughes Aerospace has already developed RNP approaches in numerous countries around the world. Baur notes that the approaches would be valuable to airports that are concerned with terrain, noise abatement, airspace restrictions or maintaining arrival rates in the event of a disruption of ground-based facilities. They are also an alternative to the high cost of traditional ground-based approach facilities. As technology improves as entry costs for RNP-capable avionics improve, RNP approaches will become more and more common around the world.


Hughes Aerospace Corporation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) worked closely with stakeholders to design and implement the first Required Navigation Performance (RNP) Instrument Flight Procedure at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. This cornerstone of Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) technology provides the public with an environmentally friendly approach procedure that is purely satellite based and does not require the installation or maintenance of costly ground navigation equipmentChicago Chart
Hughes Aerospace led the effort to deliver this technology by designing the procedure as well as performing the Instrument Flight Procedure Validation activities in their own aircraft. Additionally, Hughes Aerospace will maintain the procedure in accordance with its FAA approved maintenance program.
PBN utilizes RNP technology to transform how airplanes navigate the sky. The FAA, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and regulators worldwide are addressing the impact of air traffic growth by implementing PBN capabilities and efficiencies while simultaneously improving safety, reducing aircraft environmental impact and increasing user access.
“We enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with the FAA and various stakeholders to bring this technology to O’Hare, the traveling public and the Air Transport industry,” said Chris Baur, Hughes Aerospace President & CEO.
“With the majority of the operators at O’Hare equipped and certified for RNP AR, we are excited to see this new procedure providing benefits immediately,” said Jeff Witt, Managing Director of Navigation Services at Hughes Aerospace.
Hughes Aerospace Corporation possesses licenses and certifications from several countries throughout the world for Instrument Flight Procedure Design and is endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as an Instrument Procedure Design Organization for both Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) and Conventional instrument flight procedures. Additionally, Hughes Aerospace participates with the ICAO Performance-Based Navigation “Go-Team” as a stakeholder in the Global PBN Movement.
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Hughes Aerospace worked closely with the FAA for the past two years to achieve FAA Third-Party Service Provider certification for Required Navigation Performance (RNP) Authorization Required (AR) Instrument Flight Procedures. This rigorous process was performed in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular 90-110.  The FAA has been recognized globally for leadership involving Performance Based Navigation (PBN) and the successful implementation of NextGen, which is transforming how airplanes navigate the sky. The agency is addressing the impact of air traffic growth by increasing the National Airspace System (NAS) capabilities and efficiency while simultaneously improving safety, reducing aircraft environmental impact and increasing user access. The FAA implements PBN routes and instrument flight procedures that leverage emerging technologies and aircraft navigation capabilities, while embracing the need for certified Third-Party development, validation and maintenance of these valued instrument flight procedures under strict FAA surveillance and oversight. Continue reading

New approach procedure is expected to further assist in delivery of aid, relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts in the Philippines


MANILA, Philippines, April 30, 2014 — The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has signed a formal agreement with Honeywell Aerospace (NYSE: HON) and Hughes Aerospace to develop a performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures for the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban that will enable safer, more reliable and consistent operations under all weather conditions.

The new navigation procedures will be used to improve aid, relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts for the Leyte region, Tacloban and surrounding areas following the catastrophic effects of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Additionally, Honeywell and Hughes will absorb the entire cost of the development of these approaches at the airport – ensuring that the flow of relief supplies isn’t impacted.

“The effects of Typhoon Haiyan were catastrophic for the people of the Leyte and Tacloban regions. Additionally, when the airport’s sole navigational aid was lost, it made safe and efficient recovery efforts even more difficult.  Honeywell is pleased to share its expertise in safety technology to support the rebuilding efforts,” said Brian Davis, vice president, Airlines, Asia Pacific, Honeywell Aerospace. “We will continue to provide our support to the government through this difficult period to ensure the necessary navigational systems are in place to help with recovery and relief efforts.”

The new PBN approaches will allow the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport to move away from legacy ground-based navigation aids to satellite-based technologies using area navigation procedures, and actually lowering the approach minimums that were in place prior to the disaster.

This shift in systems will allow aircraft carrying relief supplies to the Leyte region a more stable and accurate flight path, allow for shorter, more direct routes, as well as more efficient takeoffs and landings.

“The situation at the Daniel Z. Romunaldez Airport was severe as Typhoon Haiyan had completely destroyed the ground-based navigational aid. As a result, the only Instrument Flight Procedure serving Tacloban was lost, limiting the airport to daytime operations in fair weather which significantly limited recovery and relief efforts, said Chris Baur, president and CEO, Hughes Aerospace Corporation.

“Honeywell and Hughes are partners in the Global PBN movement, and working together we identified an opportunity to assist the Philippines, providing a reliable, all-weather solution that is safer and has greater capability than the VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) Instrument Flight Procedure it replaces. Our successful partnership with the Philippine government and airlines will play a major role in helping to rebuild the Leyte region.” Continue reading